This is a seriously long tale and I’ll post it in 2 parts. It’s a lovely story of misunderstandings, how important your reputation (true or false) is, and how to manipulate your environment to get what you want. In the first part, our hero goes along with not much autonomy and takes in his stride what’s thrown at him. In the second part, the tailor shapes his own destiny. Great story!
Das tapfere Schneiderlein or The Valiant Little Tailor
One summer morning a little tailor was sitting on his table near the window, sewing cheerfully as quickly as he could. A farmer woman came down the street crying, “Good jam for sale! Selling good jam!”
That sounded lovely in the little tailor’s ears and he stuck his head out of the window, and called out:
“Come up here, good woman, if she wants to sell her goods!”
The woman climbed three stairs with her heavy basket up to the tailor’s shop and he obliged her to unpack all her pots in front of him. He inspected them all, lifted them up, sniffed them and finally said:
“The jam seems good; she may weigh me out four ounces, or I don’t mind having a quarter of a pound.”
The woman, who had hoped to make a good sale, gave him what he asked for, but left grumbling angrily.
“Well now, may God bless the jam”, cried the little tailor; ” and may it give me power and strength.” He fetched some bread from the cupboard, cut a whole round of the loaf, and spread the jam on it.
“This won’t taste bitter”, he said, “but first I want to finish this jacket before I take a bite.”
He put the bread next to him, continued sewing and his stitches grew larger the more he looked forward to his treat. All the while the scent of the sweet jam was spreading up the wall, where a large number of flies sat so that they were attracted and descended on it in large quantities.
“Who invited you?” said the tailor, and chased the unbidden guests off. But the flies who didn’t understand German, couldn’t be driven off but continued returning in larger and larger numbers. Finally the little tailor lost his temper entirely. He grabbed a rag out of a corner and “Just wait, I’ll get you!” beat down onto the flies without mercy.
When he stopped and counted, there were no less than seven dead before him, their legs stretched out.
“What a hero you are!” he said and admired his own bravery. “The whole town shall know this.”
In haste he cut out a belt, sewed it and stitched onto it with large letters: “Seven at one blow!”
“Nevermind the town!” he continued. “The whole world shall know it!” And his heart quivered with joy, like a lamb’s tail.
The tailor tied the belt round him, and decided to travel into the world because his workshop was too small for his bravery. Before leaving he searched the house for anything he could take. He only found an old cheese, which he put in his pocket. Before his gate he noticed a bird that had got caught in the bushes, and it had to join the cheese in his pocket.
Now he took the path under his legs and because he was so light and nimble, he felt no fatigue. The way led him onto a mountain, and when he reached the highest peak, he saw a powerful giant sitting there, looking calmly around him. The little tailor approached him bravely and said:
“Hello, comrade, well, are you sitting there, looking at the wide world? I am on the way to it to prove myself. Would you like to join me?”
The giant looked at the tailor contemptuously and said:
“You rascal! You miserable fellow!”
“That may be!” answered the little tailor, opened his coat and showed his belt to the giant:
“You can read here what kind of man I am.”
The giant read: “Seven at one blow!” and thinking it meant men that the tailor had slain, felt at once some respect for the little fellow. First he wanted to test him though, so picked up a stone and squeezed it so that water dripped out of it.
“Now you do it”, he said, “if you’re strong enough.”
“That’s not much”, said the little tailor. “That’s child’s play for the likes of us”, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out the soft cheese and squeezed it so that juice ran out of it.
“Well”, he said, “was that a little better?”
The giant did not know what to say and he could not believe it of the little man. So he picked up a stone and threw it so high that one could barely see it with the naked eye.
“Now, little drake man, you do that.”
“Well thrown”, said the tailor, “but the stone fell back to earth again. I will throw you one that will never come back.” He felt in his pocket, took out the bird, and threw it into the air. The bird, happy with his freedom, rose up, flew off, and did not return.
“What do you think of that, comrade?”, asked the tailor.
“You can throw alright”, said the giant, “but now we want to see if you can carry something big.”
He led the little tailor to a mighty oak tree which had been felled and lay on the ground, and said:
“If you are strong enough, so help me carry the tree out of the forest.”
“Sure”, answered the little man, “you just take the trunk on your shoulder, I will lift the branches with all their foliage and carry them, that is the he
aviest after all. ”
The giant took the trunk on his shoulder, but the tailor sat on a branch. And the giant, who could not look back, had to carry the whole tree and the little tailor on top of it as well. He was very cheerful and merry, and whistled the tune: “There were three tailors riding by”, as if carrying the tree was child’s play.
The giant, when he had struggled under his heavy load a part of the way, couldn’t continue and cried:
“Listen, I have to drop the tree!”
The tailor jumped off quickly, grabbed the tree with both arms, as if he were carrying it, and said to the giant:
“You’re such a big guy and you can’t even carry the tree.”
They continued together. And when they passed a cherry tree, the giant grabbed the crown of the tree where the ripest fruit hung, bent it down, gave it to the tailor and told him to eat. When the giant let go, the tree bounced back and the tialor was thrown into the air. When he came back down unhurt, the giant said:
“What is this, don’t you have the strength to hold down this weak branch?”
“It is not strength that is lacking”, answered the little tailor, “do you think this would concern one who has slain seven at one blow? I jumped over the tree because the hunters are shooting down there in the bushes. You jump it too, if you can.”
The giant tired, but couldn’t make it over the tree but got stuck in the branches. So once more the little tailor got the better of him.
The giant said: “If you’re such a brave fellow, come with me into our cave and stay the night.”
The tailor was quite willing and followed him.
When they reached the cave, there sat other giants by the fire, and each had a roasted sheep in his hand, and was eating it. The little tailor looked round and thought: this is a lot more spacious than my workshop. The giant showed him a bed and told him to lie down and get some rest. The bed was too big for the tailor though. He didn’t lie down in it but crept into a corner.
When it was midnight and the giant thought that the little tailor was fast asleep, he got up, took a great staff of iron and beat the bed through with one stroke. And he thought he made an end of that grasshopper.
Very early in the morning the giants went into the wood and forgot all about the little tailor. Suddenly he came walking after them alive and merry. The giants were terribly frightened, fearing that he was going to beat them to death, and ran away in all haste.
END OF PART 1
PART 2 to follow
As usual, if you have any comments, let me know below!